Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron

In Plantation Shudders, Maggie Crozat returns to her family's plantation in Louisiana after breaking up with her boyfriend in New York. The plantation, now a bed and breakfast, is full of guests. When two guests, an elderly couple, die within minutes of each other, everyone at the B&B comes under suspicion. Maggie must work with the town's new detective, Bo Durand, to find the killer and clear her name, while keeping the business going. As she investigates, she uncovers some interesting and mysterious information about her guests.

I really enjoyed this debut cozy mystery. The story is filled with lots of humour, a little romance, a little spookiness, and a whole lot of fun. I wasn't able to guess the culprit ahead of time, but that didn't really bother me. I certainly enjoyed all of the red herrings that kept me guessing until the reveal.

I really liked Maggie. She wasn't as flighty as some of the other cozy mystery characters I've read about. That was a bonus, for sure. When I found out that she was an artist, I was hoping that her art would figure into the story a little more. Perhaps the author could consider that for a future book in the series.

The other characters had a variety of personalities. Some were easy to like; others, not so much. Each of their backgrounds and possible motives were varied enough to make for an interesting read. I especially loved Maggie's grandmother. She was awesome!

I haven't been to Louisiana, but from what I've read and seen on TV, Byron represents the sights and sounds of Louisiana quite well. I'm sure those familiar with the area will get a kick out of reading about the area.

The book also contains a few recipes that might be fun to try. The one for Crawfish Crozat looks amazing, but there's no way I'm going to find crawfish (or a few of the other ingredients) here on the Canadian Prairies. Maybe one day I'll be able to find some suitable substitutes.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author and am really looking forward to the next book in the series.

For more information about this book, please visit the Crooked Lane Books website.

For more information about the author, please visit Ellen Byron's website.

Thanks to Sarah from Kaye Publicity for this review copy.

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron, Crooked Lane Books, ©2015. ISBN 9781629532509(Hardcover), 282p.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kneading to Die by Liz Mugavero

In Kneading to Die, Stan, short for Kristan, is making a new start in a small Connecticut town after losing her high-stress PR job. Her new focus is creating and baking organic treats for pets. Her homeopathic/organic approach doesn't sit well with everyone, though, and when the resident veterinarian, who uses conventional medicine turns up dead, Stan becomes a suspect. Being new in town can be either a blessing or a burden as Stan is about to find out.

This was a fun book! The mystery was a little confusing, but overall it was a good story. Stan was a great main character. I especially loved how she talked to the dogs and cats in the story as though they were people. (That's what I do, too.) I liked reading about the animals, too, especially Nutty, Scuffy and Duncan.

Having said that, there were a number of things that I didn't like or quite get. I found the story a bit muddled, especially near the end. Also, Stan's theme song references were lost on me. A few of them were familiar to me, but many weren't. I don't think they added much to the story.

I thought Stan's relationship with Richard was a bit cool and was so absent from her life that I forgot who he was a number of times. It didn't seem like they had much of a relationship and didn't seem like a good fit. It was all a bit weird.

Another thing that troubled me was Stan's total reliance on homeopathy and organic measures to treat her animals. I don't want to expand too much on that, other than I think it can coexist alongside conventional medicine; not totally replace it. Therefore, alienating the local vet soon after she moved there probably wasn't Stan's best option. Granted the vet was antagonistic, but one day Stan might have needed her services or advice.

While this advanced copy doesn't include any recipes, apparently the finished published one does. Those might be fun to try out for those who have pets.

Recommended for cozy mystery and pet lovers. While I mostly enjoyed the book, I don't think liked it enough to read any other books in the series. It does appear to be quite popular with other readers, though. As I'm writing this, there are three other books in the series.

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Liz Mugavero's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Kneading to Die by Liz Mugavero, Kensington Books, ©2013. ISBN 9780758284785(Mass Market), 331p.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Red Line by Brian Thiem

In Red Line, Matt Sinclair has just landed his first case since coming off desk duty. A teenager is found on a bus bench. That's just the beginning, though, as other bodies turn up. With no apparent links among the victims, Sinclair has to wrap this one up quickly before this new chapter of his career comes to a crashing end.

When the book first came in the mail, I decided to read a couple of pages, just to see what it was like. I found the story so compelling that I immediately dropped the other two books I was reading just to see how this one was going to pan out. I wasn't disappointed. I absolutely loved this methodical police procedural with a great main protagonist.

Brian Thiem, the author, has extensive experience in both law enforcement and military duty. Since I'm not a huge fan of war related stories, I'm glad he focused on his knowledge of police work to bring us this terrific mystery.

There are many things I like about this book. First of all, the book got (and held) my attention from page one without gratuitous violence, sex or excessive swearing. Thiem proves that a good story and a great main protagonist go a long way in making a successful book. Next, Thiem not only explained many of the abbreviations/acronyms used in police work, he did it in a natural way. Not all authors do that. Also, cop lingo and insider slang was kept to a minimum. Both of these last items made me feel included rather than feeling like an outsider looking in. Besides that, the writing is pretty good and the characters are very believable.

I loved Matt Sinclair as a main character. His far from perfect life had me on the edge of my seat hoping he'd succeed in putting his troubles behind him. Everything that happened, though, left me with lots of doubt as to whether or not he had the capacity to do it. Lots of tension for sure! I especially loved his struggle with addiction and his relationship with his sponsor/friend. I also really liked how events from his past were scattered throughout the book. Because they were revealed slowly, they added another mysterious quality to the story.

The book also contains lots of information about Oakland, California. I haven't been there myself, but I'm sure those familiar with the area will get a kick out of reading about it.

Highly recommended. I'm anxiously waiting to read more works by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the Crooked Lane Books website.

For more information about the author, please visit Brian Thiem's website.

Thanks to Sarah from Kaye Publicity for this review copy.

Red Line by Brian Thiem, Crooked Lane Books (The Quick Brown Fox & Company), ©2015. ISBN 9781629531946 (Hardcover), 360p.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden

In The Work Boyfriend, things seem to be going in the right direction for Kelly. She has a great job and a steady long term boyfriend. To everyone else, her life is nearly perfect. So, why can't she stop thinking about Garrett, her friend at work. During the chaotic holiday season, she wonders if she's made the right decisions and "finds herself questioning what she really wants from her life . . . and who she wants in it."

I really enjoyed this book. From the cover and title, I expected a much more "chick-lit" type of story. Not that that's a bad thing. I'm just glad it delved deeper into Kelly's inner-most feelings and dealt with her family issues.

I loved that the book had some Canadian references that were familiar to me. Even though I myself am not familiar with Toronto, I'm sure many readers will be and will get a kick out of reading a story set in their "backyard".

The book had an overall sadness to it with Kelly wondering about her life, the decisions she made, and what's going to happen in her future. I don't know exactly why but these types of books really appeal to me. Even though I present a somewhat "Pollyanna" or upbeat view to others, on the inside I lean towards pessimism and sadness. It's something I know and these types of stories make me feel at home.

I really liked Kelly as the main character. I think a lot of people (me included) wonder if the decisions they'd made are the right ones. They wonder if "the one" is really "the right one". Maybe it happens at the beginning of a relationship or maybe the middle or perhaps nearer the end. Maybe there's someone else involved (as in Kelly's case) or not. Maybe it's a case of cold feet, relationship ennui, or something else entirely. Regardless of the circumstance, I think a lot of people can relate to this. All of this makes the story current and relevant.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the

I'd like to thank the author for this review copy.

The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden, Farringdon Road Books, ©2014. ISBN 9780993991509(eBook),193p.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O'Briens takes a look at the O'Briens, one family afflicted by Huntington's disease.

I adored this book. As with Genova's other books it was very well written. She explains the medical details in layman's terms and doesn't get bogged down with technical jargon. She not only gives the reader insight in the disease (or condition), but also gives it a face and name to which the reader can relate.

I've heard of Huntington's, but didn't really know much about it. As it turns out, I didn't know anything, really. I think I had confused some of the symptoms with Parkinson's. For instance, I didn't know HD was inherited and that each child of an affected parent has 50% chance of getting it. I also didn't know that couples wanting to have children have options or that getting tested for the gene involves some counselling. All of these details were interesting. The littler glimmers of hope only did a little to break up the heartbreaking details of this devastating disease, which "has been called the cruelest disease known to man" (page 1).

I especially loved the scene at Fenway park where Joe attended (page 328) a baseball game with his family. He compares the number of people in the park with those diagnosed with HD as well as other diseases/disorders/conditions. It was an eye-opener. I doubt I'll ever look at a crowd of people the same way again.

Genova's presentation in this book was unexpected. While it's Joe O'Brien, the family patriarch, who's been diagnosed with the disease, he isn't the main focus of the book. The other family members, one in particular, are given consideration. I don't want to give too much of the story away, so I'll leave it at that. I will say, though, that I loved this approach and particularly loved how it ended.

I've read three other books by Genova: Left Neglected, about a serious brain injury called left neglect; Love Anthony, about autism; and Still Alice, about Alzheimer's. I adored them all.

Highly recommended. I hope Genova writes many more books.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Lisa Genova's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova, Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) ©2015. ISBN 9781501102554(Advance Reader's Edition), 335p.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Plain Killing by Emma Miller

In Plain Killing, Rachel Mast and her cousin Mary Aaron discover the body of Beth Glick, an Amish girl, floating in the quarry. Beth had left the Amish to join the English world, so it's not clear why she's back or why she's in Amish clothing. As it turns out, Beth isn't the only Amish girl they are concerned about. A few other girls have left and have never been heard from again. Beth's family along with the rest of the Amish community aren't keen on talking to the police. So it's up to Rachel, who used to belong to the group, along with Mary Aaron to help the police get information from the community to solve the case.

I really enjoyed this book, the second in the series. I don't really know much about the Amish or the Plain lifestyle, so I was particularly fascinated by the details about Old Order Amish life. I can't say if it was factual or fictional, but the information was definitely interesting. The cousins' adventure in New Orleans was especially exciting. It didn't seem like a probably scenario, but it sure was fun to read about.

It was fun to read about Rachel's interactions with the Amish. She's no longer belongs to the community, but because she left before being baptised and hasn't been shunned, the Amish people (with the exception of her mother) still confide in her and give her vital information, which she passes onto the police to help with the investigation.

Even though this book is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone book. I have the first one in the series, Plain Murder, on my to-be-read shelf, but I haven't read it yet. I probably should have read them in order, but this second one jumped out at me first.

Highly recommended for cozy lovers.

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Plain Killing by Emma Miller, Kensington Books, ©2015. ISBN 9780758291745(Advance Uncorrected Proof), 282p.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

DK's Idiot Guides in Full Colour!!

Are you a fan of DK's Idiot Guides? Well, now they are even better. If you are not familiar with the books, now's your chance to get acquainted with them. With new topics, new authors, and new colour photography learning a new skill is even more exciting.

DK is currently revamping their website, but they've just completed the section for these fabulous guides.  Why not pop over to DK's website and take a look?

In the coming weeks, I'll be reviewing two of the titles, so stay tuned!